Home or away? International work experience

Do you want to find an opportunity in your country of origin, or are you looking overseas? There can be some excellent benefits to obtaining experience overseas. However, before you commit to an international opportunity, you should take time to ensure that you understand fully the opportunity for which you are applying and that you are aware of all the implications involved (for example visas, vaccinations, safety considerations, accommodation costs...)

When you arrange a work experience opportunity, ultimately it is you who takes responsibility for ensuring that it is a success. Arranging an opportunity in your own country can take less effort that arranging something overseas. However, an international opportunity may provide you with experience and competencies that are invaluable in your chosen career.

Careers Network has identified some key points which you should consider if you’re thinking about international work experience:

Valid passport

Whether you are a UK home student or an international student, you will need to ensure that your passport is valid and that it will remain valid for the duration of your stay abroad. Some countries require that a passport must be valid for at least six months or sometimes longer after the expected end date for your stay. If you are planning to undertake work experience overseas and you don’t have a passport, or think that your passport might expire soon, we advise you to look into replacing it sooner rather than later.

UK students

If you do not have a passport, or if you need to replace your passport, the Direct Gov passports pages can provide you with guidance.

International students

Careers Network cannot provide expert guidance regarding the passport policies of individual countries. If you believe that your passport may need replacing soon, please consult the International Students Advisory Service at the University of Birmingham and also refer to the guidance produced by your own country of origin.

Ability to travel to the country

If you plan to work in a particular country, are you able to access it? (Some countries might have volatile political situations or may be regarded as dangerous and your country may advise against travel to that location). To help determine if you can access a particular country and to determine whether there may be any potential risks to your safety once in the country, check out the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for further details and also the UK Foreign Office website. It is always sensible to undertake a risk assessment in advance of committing to visit a country, based on all the information available to you.

Visas

All countries have their own unique requirements regarding visas for work experience. If you don’t have the appropriate, valid visa, you are unlikely to get into the country to undertake your opportunity. If you try to get into a country to undertake work experience without a valid visa and this is then discovered by the authorities, you may prevent yourself not only from accessing that country in the future, but also other countries as well.

Every nation’s government provides visa information and advice to foreign nationals wishing to undertake work experience in their country. The UK Government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office provides comprehensive guidance (primarily for UK nationals) regarding travel overseas. It also provides contact details for the UK embassy of every overseas country

Risk assessment

The University of Birmingham requires that all staff and students undertake a comprehensive risk assessment, if they are travelling overseas to represent the University (this includes undertaking travel for which a University of Birmingham Work Experience Bursary may have been awarded). The University provides a detailed risk assessment document with instructions. It is the responsibility of all University of Birmingham students to complete this document well in advance of travelling and to return it to the Careers Network with the rest of your bursary application paperwork. Where external information may be required (for example regarding risks associated with individual countries), the form signposts you to appropriate sources of information.

Travel insurance

The University of Birmingham provides basic travel insurance cover to all staff and students. To be valid, the documents must be completed in detail in advance of your trip. However, you may identify a need to obtain additional insurance to provide cover for activities that you plan to undertake on your trip which are not covered by the policy, or to cover personal belongings that may not be covered.

Medical card

If you are a UK national and are planning to travel to a location in the European Economic Area, you are advised to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is free and entitles you to free or reduced-cost treatment in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. You can find out how to apply for a new card, or renew an existing one, at www.europeanhealthcard.org.uk.

Language skills and cultural awareness

You can make the most of an opportunity overseas by ensuring that you integrate into the environment. Find out how to improve your language skills and cultural awareness before you go, with help from the University.

Third parties

Many organisations exist to help students find work experience opportunities overseas as well as assisting with accommodation, visas, etc. Be careful! Many charge you for this service and you may find it cheaper to do some of this yourself. Find out more about working with third parties.

Global Challenge

Global Challenge is the University of Birmingham’s unique scheme to give ambitious students once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as interns in top global companies, with funding and training. The programme is available to undergraduate students from all years of study. Find out more about Global Challenge.

Further information

If you would like further information regarding considerations for work experience overseas, the Prospects website and AGCAS working abroad information provide additional information. If you are considering taking a year out, take a look at our "Thinking of a gap year?" information. Or take a look at our guide: